In this blog, I’m going to be talking about what I think is the best method to plan a workout split for yourself. Keep in mind, I’m not recommending this to powerlifters, cross fitters, or specialized athletes. The methods I’m suggesting to use are for the person who wants to build an aesthetic, strong, and proportionate physique. It’s the style of training and methods I use, so take it for what it’s worth, but it has produced positive results for me over the years. Here are 5 tips to plan your workout split:
Look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. – This does not mean to criticize yourself and go into a negative mental spiral. It’s very easy to develop body dysmorphia when you start working out a lot, so that’s something we want to do our absolute best to avoid by maintaining a healthy self-image when it comes to our physique. What I’m meaning is for you to look at your physique in the mirror and be honest with yourself about what areas of your body that actually need improvement while giving yourself grace and patience as you take the necessary steps to make those changes. For example, you could have a muscularly developed upper body with underdeveloped legs, so that means your legs are a weak point. I used that example because that was me for a very long time and I can speak from experience. I was the newbie gym bro that only hit upper body when I first started training, and I developed a physique that reflected my lack of training legs. To be blunt, I was top heavy and my legs needed serious work. So what did I do? I adjusted my training split accordingly to start building my legs. Because I hadn’t been training legs at all, I started with adding in one leg day a week. As my legs started to develop and I felt like I was ready to do so, I increased my leg training sessions to twice per week. I’ve now been hitting legs twice a week for the past several years and finally, I feel my body is proportionate. I hope by my example I just gave you of my honest assessment of my physique in the mirror, gave you an idea of what I mean by being honest with yourself about your physique. We all have strong points and we all have weak points. It’s what we do with and about them that will make the real difference in the long run. You may already be muscularly proportionate, so when you look in the mirror you may realize you need to cut body fat or put more muscle on your frame. Each of those adjustments to your physique may require adjustments to your training style but almost definitely require adjustments to your eating habits, so we’ll talk about that next.
Adjust your diet to support your goals. – Let’s start with the basics. If you look in the mirror and feel that you need to lose body fat, then you need to eat healthy foods in a caloric deficit. If you look in the mirror and feel you need to put on more size, then you need to eat healthy foods in a caloric surplus. A caloric deficit means you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming, and a surplus means you’re consuming more calories than you’re burning. Now that we’ve covered those basics and you’ve established whether you need to be in a deficit or surplus to achieve your desired physique, let’s now talk about how to plan your diet to integrate with your workout split. Our body uses carbs and fats as energy sources. Some of us respond and utilize carbs better and for some of us, fats are a better option. I’ve found that my body responds well to carbs, so I spike my carbs on days that I have an intense training session planned. For example, if I planned a workout split that looks like: Monday – legs, Tuesday – shoulders, Wednesday – back, Thursday – chest, Friday – arms, Saturday – legs, I would spike my carbs on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday to give my body more energy for training my legs and back. It can also be an effective method to spike your carbs on the days your training a muscle group that you feel is lagging behind the others. The increased calories and glycogen spike from the carbs can help that muscle respond and grow. So then you ask, why can’t I just spike my carbs every day around my workouts? And the answer is you can, as long as you plan your diet accordingly for the rest of the day to stay in a deficit or surplus. What if you’re happy with your body fat levels and want to maintain them as you train? You then would want to determine your daily caloric expenditure and consume that number of calories or at least as close to that number as you can. This is called caloric maintenance. I know I’m throwing a ton of information at you at once, but that’s why I started with the basics. All these other methods like cycling your carbs or fats by the day or even the time of day are things you can try to dial your diet in past the basics. But if you start to feel overwhelmed or confused, always go back to the basics. They are the basics for a reason, they work. Keep in mind, everything I’m saying about your diet should follow the same mental health rules as being honest with what you see in the mirror, your mental health and overall health should always be your first priority. It’s not healthy to starve yourself to achieve a look you feel you need to achieve in a short amount of time. It’s not only unhealthy for your body, it’s also unhealthy for your mind. Give yourself grace and patience as you hold yourself accountable to following the proper healthy diet to support your training split. Make adjustments as you learn more about what your body responds to the best as you prioritize your overall health. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The key is consistency over time.
Pick a time of day to train and stick with it. – If you have the luxury of determining your own schedule on a daily basis, I wouldn’t get in the habit of just deciding to work out when you feel like it. I would pick a time of day and stick to it. It’s easier to stay consistent and also it’s easier to plan your diet accordingly. If you work full-time or have a schedule that requires you to train around a set schedule, then this already takes care of itself for you, so just make sure you’re planning your meals accordingly to support that schedule.
Plan your split to allow your muscles to recover. – A popular training split that a lot of people follow is push, pull, legs. Meaning, you would train upper body with push movements, then the next day train upper body again with pull movements, then the next day train legs, usually followed by a rest day, and then you start the split over again. It’s not a bad method at all, and is honestly pretty great for a lot of people because of its simplicity and how it forces you to train different muscle groups while allowing plenty of time for those muscles to recover before targeting them again. A more advanced version of this, and is what most bodybuilders follow, is the “bro” split. This split dedicates a day or full workout to isolating each muscle group by itself. It could look like the example I gave earlier of: Monday – legs, Tuesday – shoulders, Wednesday – back, Thursday – chest, Friday – arms, Saturday – legs, Sunday - rest. If you’ll notice, the way I organized each muscle group by the day kept sore muscles from the previous day of training from affecting the targeted muscles for the next day. For example, sore legs from training them on Monday shouldn’t affect or hinder training your shoulders on Tuesday. Sore shoulders from Tuesday shouldn’t affect or hinder training back on Wednesday, and so on. Plus, by the time you get to training legs again on Saturday, your legs have had 4 full days to rest and recover before targeting them again. This has been a proven method for building a muscular, aesthetic physique over time because of the isolation work for each muscle and the ample rest time before targeting the same muscle again. Can you see how you could plan your split to work on your weak points using a similar schedule? Maybe instead of scheduling legs twice a week, you need to schedule shoulders, chest, or back twice a week? Or maybe, the push, pull, legs split is perfect for you because you already have a proportionate physique. That’s the point of this! Try the different methods and splits to build what works the best for you.
Self-care. – I’ve already referenced mental health a few times, and that’s for a reason, it has to always remain our number 1 priority. The other self-care I’m referring to when it comes to planning your workout split is stretching, hydration, and mobility. If you don’t stretch, drink plenty of water, and work on mobility, your body is going to get stiff, and that means your muscles and joints are most likely going to ache. Proper stretching, hydration, and mobility work is essential to keep your body functioning at a high level. I can be honest that I was bad about this when I first started training, and I paid for it with pain and loss of mobility. I now do resistance band work for static warmups before my workouts, drink a gallon of water every day, and I stretch every single morning. My body is finally feeling much better and I wish I would’ve have made these adjustments much sooner. I have less pains, aches, and my recovery time has improved. A proper workout split that allows you to not only achieve awesome results, but actually sustain those results, includes a proper self-care routine. Stretch, hydrate, rest, train, eat – repeat.
Build your split, make adjustments as you stay consistent, & Stay LFTD.
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